Fabrications

One thing that always baffles me about disagreements is how readily people fabricate things. I'm not sure what causes it, and I imagine it isn't (usually) done consciously. Still, it happens all the time. For instance, yesterday I was in a chat room when I said something to the effect of:

I was going to say, "You idiot," but I was worried you wouldn't get the joke.

In what followed, a person said I was hostile and rude because I called them an idiot. Obviously, that's not a fair depiction of what I said. It didn't matter though. Their view didn't change a single iota even when I pointed out I specifically labeled the phrase a joke (it was meant as a joke about how I wasn't being hostile by showing what hostility could be).

That incident wasn't important, but it did create an interesting mindset for me when I was reading a few things today. You see, this sort of thing happens all the time, and usually, people don't say a word about it. Today I happened to see two obvious cases of such, and I wanted to share. Part of my motivation is just that I find this sort of thing interesting. The other part is I find it incredibly obnoxious that global warming "skeptics" would post obvious fabrications and not get called out.

I saw the first example when I was checking Watts Up With That to see if the comment I showed in my last post was ever published. It wasn't. I don't know why my comment has never appeared. I just find it troubling when I post comments critical of posts on a site and have them vanish into the ether.

In any event, when I went to check to see if that comment had gone through, I accidentally went to the wrong post. It turns out there was a newer post that also discussed the "fact checking" organization Politifact, and I didn't notice it was a different one. I decided to go ahead and read it though since I was already there. When I did, this jumped out at me:

Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature“ by John Cook et al (Environmental Research Letters, 22 April 2013) looked for studies that “implied that humans were causing global warming”.

I've spent quite a bit of time criticizing the paper being referenced here. As a result, I immediately knew this quote was fake. The paper never said the words "“implied that humans were causing global warming.” When I looked into where the quote came from, the only places I could find that phrase being used were writing by the same person, like here. Apparently, this author decided to take this phrasing from the paper, given as a description for a single classification category used in the paper:

Implies humans are causing global warming. E.g., research assumes greenhouse gas emissions cause warming without explicitly stating humans are the cause

And somehow altered it to say:

implied that humans were causing global warming

I imagine some people would say this change is trivial and doesn't impact anything, but altering quotes like this is inexcusable. If the author had wished to alter the phrasing to fit his needs, he shouldn't have included the quotation marks. Alternatively, he could have labeled it a paraphrase.

He didn't. I don't get that. I also don't get how his earlier writing with this fake quote has been around for almost a year without anyone noticing this alteration. That is particularly true since Politifact wrote an article which involved "fact checking" his piece. One might naively hope fact-checkers would find fake quotes, but... I guess not.

Anyway, the second example I'd like to highlight is this series of tweets by Joe Bastardi which were retweeted by several people on my timeline. They were even retweeted by at least one big name skeptic," Marc Morano:

These tweets Are obviously wrong. If one clicks on the link Bastardi provides, this is found:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 69% of Likely U.S. Voters oppose the government investigating and prosecuting scientists and others including major corporations who question global warming. Just 15% favor such investigations, while just as many (16%) are undecided.

Maybe people will say the difference between 31% and 15% is immaterial (though to the user who worries the number might break 50%, it clearly isn't). I don't think it is, but I also don't think that matters. The point here is anyone who bothered to read this source would see these tweets are wrong. In both of these examples, the writer provided a link to the very material that shows them wrong. It's bizarre.

Before I wrap up, I want to point out an interesting element to this survey. It turns out while 15% of people surveyed said they support these investigations, only 21% of Democrats said they do. That means nearly 10% of Republicans said they support these investigations. That seems strange.

I don't know if there is perhaps some methodological problem where people's answers aren't accurate (maybe some people don't even think about the question?), but if not, one in ten likely voters who self-identify as Republicans support these investigations. One in five likely voters who self-identify as Democrats do. I would not have anticipated the gap would be that small.

I don't really have anything else to say right now. I just wanted to highlight these two examples because I think they demonstrate a trend I've watched for a long time. It seems no matter how obviously wrong what a person says might be, they can often get away with saying it. Combine that with how readily people resort to these sorts of fabrications, and you have a recipe for all sorts of problems.

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